I earned 17,000 miles shopping online — reader success story

Oct 11, 2019

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Andrew, whose patience before a large purchase paid off handsomely:

I am currently working toward a professional certificate that requires me to take a four-day course. The courses usually cost $1,800 to $2,000, which I am paying out of pocket. It’s a great investment for my future, but it also turned out to be a great investment in miles!

Having located a course that fit my schedule and was in the right price range, I noticed through a Google search that the course is advertised and sold through Groupon. I checked out Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping and saw that buying through the portal would earn me 3 miles per dollar spent. That wasn’t bad considering I needed to purchase the course anyway, but I opted to wait a week and see if Alaska and Groupon would run some sort of bonus.

Well, I was in luck: over Labor Day weekend, the Mileage Plan Shopping portal advertised 9 miles per dollar spent on Groupon! For a class costing $1,895, I would be set to earn over 17,000 miles!

After about three weeks of waiting, the 17,055 miles finally posted to my Mileage Plan account. Using TPG’s valuations, that’s about $307 worth of miles! While I have no imminent plans to use them, I’m hoping to continue building my balance and eventually redeem for an international trip somewhere with an Alaska Airlines partner.

One of the easiest ways to boost your loyalty account balances is to use a shopping portal whenever you make purchases online. Shopping portals offer rewards in addition to what you earn from your credit card, with typical earning rates from popular retailers in the range of 1-3 points or miles per dollar. However, you’ll often see higher promotional rates and spending bonuses around holidays and other peak shopping dates, and in those cases the returns can be staggering. If you’re planning to make a large purchase and can afford to be patient, follow Andrew’s lead and try to time it with a portal bonus to maximize your rewards.

Because earning rates vary and there are so many shopping portals to choose from, you should check an aggregator like CashbackMonitor.com to determine which portal offers the most rewards for your purchase. Keep in mind that the highest earning rate isn’t necessarily the best fit — some rewards are worth more than others, so a portal with a lower rate may still yield the most value. You might also opt for a lower rate based on your upcoming travel plans. For example, Hawaiian Airlines miles aren’t a strong choice for flights from the U.S. to Europe, so if you’re booking a transatlantic trip, you’d be better off targeting another portal even if it offers nominally fewer miles.

Related: The beginners guide to airline shopping portals

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Andrew a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo by skynesher/Getty Images.

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*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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